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An alternative View to the Genesis Account

Posted by Jor-el , 21 December 2010 · 408 views

In the Beginning...
Taking a look at the "creation account" of Genesis 1 we find a few things that are extremely interesting. The 1st is that when it was written it was written in a semi-poetic language. In other words it is inviting us to look beyond the apparent idea for a hidden message. Many have taken this to mean that we are dealing with metaphorical rather than a literal reading of the account.

My purpose here is for us to look at this account as both metaphor and literal at the same time. How can it be both, one might ask?

Well It is based on real events but it is wrapped up in metaphorical imagery because the writer had no real conception of what the reality was. He was not there after all. God may have actually given him a vision, but I suspect he didn't even understand what it was he was actually seeing, so here we have a description, to the best of the writers ability of what he saw.

As we know, the Genesis 1 account is actually a narrative as seen from the viewpoint of a 3rd party witness who did not partake of the events, as such the writers description is divided into periods. The periods are likened to days and can be interpreted as literal 24 hour days, or periods of time if one takes the poetic stance.

Now taking the above information into consideration let us look at Genesis 1 in more detail.

Genesis 1

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

We can state that this is the original creation, the actual coming into being of the universe with its billions of galaxies. An event we have dated to about 14 Billion Years ago. The writer saw the universe come into being as if from nothing.  As the skies cooled the suns and galaxies formed and finally he sees the creation of our solar system with specific emphasis on the formation of the earth around 5 Billion years ago. He sees the planet coalesce and over time he sees life begin and develop until it is a paradise.


Alot has been said concerning this 1 little verse. There infact many different points that need to be talked about before we continue to the juicy parts, since it is this verse that will set the stage for the rest of the interpretation.

In the beginning - re'shiyth

Hebrew has at least two perfectly good words to express exactly what we mean by our word beginning. One has been referred to in Proverbs 8:23, (i.e., me-rosh). The other word is tehillah, which simply means "commencement." It is frequently used, and it applies essentially to a true commencement, a point in time, never in value. It was not, therefore, a lack of vocabulary that determined the choice of this Hebrew word in Genesis 1:1; it was evidently used to convey a precise idea. It is in fact exactly parallel to the Greek of John 1:1, where the definite article is also missing: "In a former (time or state) the Word was God." Theologically this is a far more exact and significant statement of fact. There is really no question of a beginning at all--it is entirely a matter of a prior circumstance. And since the Septuagint translators were careful to translate Genesis 1:1 by the same phrase en arche, not en te arche, it was probably a deliberate choice to convey a specific meaning.

Thus the actual rendering in the English is "In a former state" or "At an unkown point in the past"...

This actually has implications for our understanding of this verse.

The Big Bang

Extrapolation of the expansion of the universe backwards in time using general relativity yields an infinite density and temperature at a finite time in the past. This singularity signals the breakdown of general relativity. The early hot, dense phase is itself referred to as "the Big Bang", and is considered the "birth" of our universe. Based on measurements of the expansion using Type Ia supernovae, measurements of temperature fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background, and measurements of the correlation function of galaxies, the universe has a calculated age of 13.7 ± 0.2 billion years. The agreement of these three independent measurements strongly supports the ΛCDM model that describes in detail the contents of the universe.

Time and the Big Bang

According to some of the latest scientific theories, time began with the Big Bang. Stephen Hawking has commented that trying to ascertain what happened before time began is like trying to find out what is north of the North Pole, and that such questions are self-contradictory, and thus without meaning. Hawking has also stated, along with other theorists, that even if time did not begin with the Big Bang and there were another time frame before the Big Bang, no information from events then would be accessible to us, and nothing that happened then would have any effect upon the present time-frame. Scientists have come to some agreement on descriptions of events that happened 10−35 seconds after the Big Bang, but generally agree that descriptions about what happened before one Planck time (5 × 10−44 seconds) after the Big Bang will likely remain pure speculation.

One view is that time is part of the fundamental structure of the universe, a dimension in which events occur in sequence, and time itself is something that can be measured. This is the realist's view, to which Sir Isaac Newton subscribed, and hence is sometimes referred to as Newtonian time.

A contrasting view is that time is part of the fundamental intellectual structure (together with space and number). Within this structure, humans sequence events, quantify the duration of events and the intervals between them, and compare the motions of objects. In this second view, time does not refer to any kind of entity that "flows", that objects "move through", or that is a "container" for events. This view is in the tradition of Gottfried Leibniz and Immanuel Kant, in which time, rather than being an objective thing to be measured, is part of the measuring system used by humans.

In physics, time and space are considered fundamental quantities (i.e. they cannot be defined in terms of other quantities because other quantities - such as velocity, force, energy, etc - are already defined in terms of them). Thus the only definition possible is an operational one, in which time is defined by the process of measurement and by the units chosen.



Time as can be seen above, is subject to the existence of the Big Bang, There was nothing before the Big Bang, at least as far as we can determine. Time only became measurable after the BB event. Science has been able to determine that time and thus our universe, became measurable around 13 - 14 Billion years ago, give or take. Before this time was not quantifiable.

At some point in the past, we don't know when, God brought forth the Heavens. He used the matter created by the Big Bang to do so and the process continues at this time.

Created - bara'

to create, shape, form

(Qal) to shape, fashion, create (always with God as subject)

- of heaven and earth, of individual man, of new conditions and circumstances, of transformations

(Niphal) to be created

- of heaven and earth, of birth, of something new, of miracles

The word means strictly "to cut out" or "to carve out," and thence from the idea of sculpture it came to mean "to put the finishing touch," "to polish," and so "to perfect." The basic idea appears to be that God's creative work is a finished product and therefore perfect. Yet it means more than this. Man's creative works are the result of some considerable effort before the article is finished, but God simply speaks and it is done. In keeping with this, we find that the verb is used only in what is termed the Qal or Simple form with respect to God's activity. But when man's creative works are under consideration, an intensive form of the Hebrew word is employed. In the things of the Spirit, there is a sense in which God's creative work is not without great effort, for the perfecting of the saints is indeed a difficult task. But in the material realm God does not experiment. His work is direct, perfect, and complete, and while the same verb is occasionally applied in Scripture to man's creative activity, it is never used in the form which occurs here. The really difficult task was man's salvation. Creation was the work of God's Fingers (Ps. 8:3), judgment the work of His Hand (Ps. 39:10), but salvation was the work of the whole Arm of God (Ps. 77:15).

It is sometimes stated that bara means to create from nothing. But man himself was not created out of nothing. The materials for his body were already at hand (Gen. 2:7), though perhaps his spirit was created ex nihilo.

In the same way, the "Heavens" and the "Earth", were not created out of nothing, but rather of a preexisting material, matter, the risidue of the Big Bang.

The Heavens - shamayim

heaven, heavens, sky - visible heavens, sky
as abode of the stars
as the visible universe, the sky, atmosphere, etc
Heaven (as the abode of God)

Shamayim, is the Hebrew word that means heavens. For anybody who understands basic Hebrew, they will be aware that the word here is in the plural form, "shamay" being the singular, with the suffix "im" being the plural, Thus, "Shamay + im" is "Shamayim". The same is found in other well known examples of Hebrew that are frequently discussed. Malak (messenger / angel) with the "im" suffix becomes "malakim" (angels) and "Eloh" (God) with "im" becomes Elohim (Gods), although the last example in the plural form can also be singular, just like the words: sheep, deer, fish (as well as many individual fish names: cod, mackerel, trout, etc.), moose and swine.

Therefore a clear distinction can be made between the visible sky (heaven) and the Cosmos (the non-visible sky). Both these ideas are incorporated in the word "Heavens".

The visible sky has clear cosmological objects, like the Stars, Sun, Planets and the Moon and the non visible sky is the cosmos in general, that is constituted by the Galaxies and other astronomical phenomenae (the abode of the stars). Taking into account that this is being related to a human being, it becomes logical that such a distinction be present.

It also refers to the establishment of the spiritual realm, before the physical realm as seen by the earth, which follows the creation of the heavens. Many people fail to realize that if a purely geocentric model were a fact in the mind of the author, then the Earth would have been preeminent in the chronology of creation, which is not the case.

It is also a well known scientific fact that "The Heavens" or "Galaxies" of the universe had to exist first, and go through death and rebirth to provide the heavy metals such as iron and nickel, which could then form planetary systems and eventually life. It is one of the principle reasons that it is commonly assumed that if life has to exist out there, it is also a recent development in the chronolgy of the universe after the big bang.

Only younger generation star systems seem to form planetary systems. from the residue of super novae. Super Novae are the primary creators of heavy metals in the universe.

The Earth - 'erets

land, earth

- earth
whole earth (as opposed to a part)
earth (as opposed to heaven)
earth (inhabitants)
- land
country, territory
district, region
tribal territory
piece of ground
land of Canaan, Israel
inhabitants of land

The Physical Universe was created after the Spirtual Universe, as is implied by the order of the creation in this verse. This implies that God created the rest of the Heavenly retinue (angels and so forth), before he commenced the creation of the Physical universe. In scientific terms, the universe came into existence from the primordial chaos of the Big Bang. The process of the creation of the Heavens took billions of years until around its third generation of star systems, planets started to form.

Our planetary system is around 4.5 billion years old in a universe that is 13 - 14 billion years old.

Life on earth 1st appeared according to the latest estimates, around 3.8 billion years ago, the earliest fossil records are for bacteria like creatures, estimated at around 3.5 billion years of age.

The evolutionary fossil record, demonstrates that the earth has been inhabited by living creatures since the earliest of times and that there have been cycles of life and extinction on a planetary scale over succesive years. Various researchers have determined that these cycles vary from 60 million years to 140 million years and as yet no single cause for these events have been found.

Since life began on Earth, several major mass extinctions have significantly exceeded the background extinction rate. The most recent, the K-T extinction event, occurred 65 million years ago, and has attracted more attention than all others because it killed the dinosaurs. In the past 550 million years there have been five major events when over 50% of animal species died. There probably were mass extinctions in the Archean and Proterozoic Eons, but before the Phanerozoic there were no animals with hard body parts to leave a significant fossil record.

Estimates of the number of major mass extinctions in the last 540 million years range from as few as five to more than twenty. These differences stem mostly from the threshold chosen for describing an extinction event as "major", and the data chosen to measure past diversity.

See:
Life Cycles
Mass extinction comes every 62 million years, UC physicists discover
Extinction events
Cosmic Time Cycles

It is my contention that an extinction event is what efectively seperates verse 1 from the rest of the chapter. This extinction event caused a major if not total loss of life on earth, thus bringing the events of verse 2 to verse 31 into context.

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2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

Getting back to the 3rd party witness I 1st mentioned, this witness then goes on to describe this extinction event. Verse 2 offers us the clue that we need to understand the rest of the passage, in that they fit perfectly into the sequence of events that would occur, if the earth had to recover from such a catastrophe.

Now the earth was formless and empty

This is a direct reference to the earth as we find it at this time formles and empty, but that unfortunately this is incorrectly interpreted.

There are thre keywords that need to be analyzed in this section, these are

WAS FORMLESS EMPTY

The verb was in the Hebrew is "hayah" and is a form of the verb "to be". Unlike English where different words are used in exclusivity according to time, the hebrew can render the same word in different times depending on the context.

Accordingly, Genesis 1:3 which we'll get to shortly states:

And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light.

Both terms "be" and "was" are" translated from the word "hayah". In the same vain in Genesis 1: 29 we have an instance of the same verb form in the Future:

They will be yours for food.

We have the same situation with the past tense where "hayah" can be translated "Became"...

Genesis 47:20

So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh, for every Egyptian sold his field, because the famine was severe upon them. Thus the land became Pharaoh's.

Taking this into consideration, the verse can thus be translated:

Now the earth became...

Formless and empty can be taken together as a group. The hebrew rendering of "Formless and Empty" is "tohu wa bohu"

From the outset we can say unequivocally that both words, whether occurring together or singly, are used throughout Scripture in connection with something under God's judgment. Tohu is used of something which has been laid waste (Isaiah 24:10; 34:11; Jeremiah 4:23) or has become desert (Deuteronomy 32:10) or of anything which is the object of false "worship" and therefore displeasing to God, as in Isaiah 41:29, etc. With the Hebrew preposition (lamedh) it becomes an adverb, (Isaiah 49:4) and means "wastefully" or "in vain."

Let us take Jeremiah 4:23 into consideration:

Jeremiah 4:19-26

My soul, my soul! I am in anguish! Oh, my heart!
My heart is pounding in me;
I cannot be silent,
Because you have heard, O my soul,
The sound of the trumpet,
The alarm of war.

Disaster on disaster is proclaimed,
For the whole land is devastated;
Suddenly my tents are devastated,
My curtains in an instant.

How long must I see the standard
And hear the sound of the trumpet?

For My people are foolish,
They know Me not;
They are stupid children
And have no understanding
They are shrewd to do evil,
But to do good they do not know."

looked on the earth, and behold, it was formless and void;
And to the heavens, and they had no light.


I looked on the mountains, and behold, they were quaking,
And all the hills moved to and fro.

I looked, and behold, there was no man,
And all the birds of the heavens had fled.

I looked, and behold, the fruitful land was a wilderness,
And all its cities were pulled down
Before the LORD, before His fierce anger.


Notice the context of the passage, it is one of Judgement and Destruction, In this particular case a judgement and destruction on Judah. The Kingdom of Judah was conquered in 586 BCE by the Babylonian Empire under Nebuzar-adan, captain of Nebuchadnezzar's body-guard.(2 Kings 25:8-21). This event coincided with the destruction of the First Temple of Jerusalem and with the Babylonian Captivity.

Synonyms, translators commonly use for "Tohu" are:

formlessness, confusion, unreality, emptiness, nothingness, empty space, that which is empty or unreal (of idols), wasteland, wilderness, chaos and vanity

For "Bohu", the synonyms are:

emptiness, void and waste

Thus we can put verse 2 into the following form:

Now the earth became waste and empty or a devestated ruin.

This coincides perfectly with the idea that an extinction event took place. An event that literally wiped the earth clean of life. Again I must repeat that such an event has not been found geologically, but it doesn't necessarily mean that it did not take place either.

Something this devestating and swift would have left some trace in the normal order of things, thus it is also my contention that when God "destroyed" the earth, it was due to a judgement, but he then proceeded to reconstruct the earth to its previous state. It may also simply mean that such evidence has not simply been found yet because no-one is actually looking, but I'll stick to my 1st assesment.

The idea of the earth being reconstructed is not new by any standard. Revelation says much of the same thing regarding the end of the age.

Revelation 21:1-4

1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

This actually fits in with the wording of verse 1 where it can be related to the words "In the beginning". "In a former state", "in a former time" or even "in an undetermined time in the past" are all implicit in this view of "In the beginning".

Thus Genesis 1:2 can be rendered....

Now the earth became a devestated ruin, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

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And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

IF we notice here, the light was not created, it simply became visible. This exactly waht would happen if a layer of thick ash and cloud layer actually encircled the earth from pole to pole.  We could effectively state that there was an actual layer of mud in the  upper atomosphere. Over time as this layer settled and the cloud layer decreased, light would again become visible.

And God said, "Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water." So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. God called the expanse "sky."  And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.

It seems this is a continued effect from Thick cloud cover that darkened the sky, with rain falling continuously. The rain stops as dissipation takes place thus now we have the sky visible where before nothing was visible. The witness would have seen the the cloud layer break up enough to distinguish the surface from the atmosphere and eventually he would have seen the waters beneath covering the land and a sky filled with solid cloud but with enough light to make things visible.

And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.

Notice now that the witnesses attention is on the surface of the earth but this time we have runoff from the water that has fallen as it gathers in the lower regions of land, lakes and eventually oceans are reformed, effectively creating seperatrion between sky, earth and water.


Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.

I would draw your attention to the fact that nothing has been created at all yet. The only mention of a creative event is in verse 1 at this time, yet here we have plant life making a come back. As we all know, plant life is the 1st to recover from events of this nature especially if seeds are not destroyed in a worldwide extinction event.

And God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth." And it was so. God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.

I would add here that God had already made the stars the planets, the sun and the moon at this time, what we are seeing here is return of these lights to the sky as the cloud layer eventually dissipates enough for clear skies to become visible again. What we do see is that these celestial bodies were also affected by the catastroph that hit the earth. They needed to be restored to their specific places (their orbits) so that the seasons,climate and the tides could be restored on the earth.

And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.

Here for the 1st time since the 1st verse is a creative act mentioned again. Life is brought forth from the sea and the land, repopulating the earth with animal life of all kinds. So we actually see a distinction between animal life and plant life. Plant life can survive an ELE but animal life would be totally destroyed, thus the need for a recreation of that life. By recreation I am stating that God did not create new living things, but he used animal life that had already been present before the ELE (Extinction Level Event). Thus we are witnessing a restoration and not an actual initial creation as most people believe.



The regulation and order of all animal life created earlier is now apparant as the animal life settles into ecological niches and starts reproducing. Micro-evolution at its best.  

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so. God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day
.

Finally man is created, the ultimate symbol of Law and Order on the earth. Man is created to BE the image of God. Let me add here that there is a huge difference from this to the popular concept that we were created IN the image of God.

I refer you to the bolded line above, this statement is quite clearly the outlining of what it means to be created in the image of God, it is not simply to be a passive element but rather a balancing and administrative element, ruling in the name of God. This is the very essence of the idea "Divine Kingship".

Divine Kingship has 3 basic ideas attached to it...

1. It is the receptacle of supernatural or divine power.

2. Descended from divine or semidivine rulers.

3. To act as agents or mediators of the sacred.

This is the idea behind the "Image of God".

So we finally conclude that what Genesis 1 transmits to us and it transmitted this to the ancients as well, (but not with the scientific detail and knowledge I added) was that the world had been restored from a period of chaos and destruction ( a common theme in ancient creations myths by the way) and thus began the age of man, inwhich we were given authority and kingship of this planet but lost it due to short sighted greed.

I would further add that if we checked the Hindu "Vedas", specifically the Bhagavata Purana we would find something that clarifies the bible quite a bit. We live in Cosmic Cycles of birth life and destruction and the bible is specifically referencing the same events in a clearly anthropocentric way. This "cosmic cycle" is our "dispensation". We are living in the "dispensation of Mankind", yet they bible suggests that there were others before ours.




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